The last four books I'll likely ever buy at Borders

I stopped by a Borders this afternoon and bought what will probably be the last books I ever buy in a Borders store. There’s a lot that can be said about a major bookstore chain going out of business, and little of it is optimistic. There’s a case to be made that this is bad news for publishers, writers, readers, and even other booksellers — at least in the short term.

Still, I bought four books at the Borders I visited. Not out of any illusion that this would benefit anybody except the liquidators — it’s too late for that now — but because I wanted those books, and a 20% discount is better than nothing. The sad truth is that since Borders is never coming out of bankruptcy, there’s very little chance that any of the money I spent today will find its way to the publishers or authors. Admittedly, that’s a bummer.

But reading can be an expensive hobby, especially if you like to own your own books. Cheap or free books are the fuel for many a book-a-week habit that could never be supported otherwise. And publishers and authors tend to be an understanding lot. Despite the apparent conflict of interest, I suspect most writers get as much of a kick out of seeing their book in a library as they do seeing it in a bookstore. (I know that I do.)

So head on out to your local Borders before it’s gone forever. If you can get a good deal on Machine of Death, I hope you’ll take advantage of it. If not, then there’s always the free PDF or the local library. And you might find us cheaper on Amazon or Barnes & Noble anyway.

No one in the United States is in danger of losing access to books. The Internet makes it easier than ever for people everywhere to get their hands on books of all kinds, usually for a pretty reasonable price. But the number of people who no longer have a local bookstore is going to increase substantially when Borders closes its doors. So if you like bookstores, then I urge you to seek out whoever is selling books in your area — even if it’s only Walmart. If you don’t like the set-up or the selection, let the folks running the store know what it would take for you to shop there.

And, of course, keep your eye out in case anything comes along to replace those shuttered Borders stores. In the long term, this could be an opportunity for independent bookstores to reclaim some of their old turf. If that ends up happening, we should all be ready to give them the welcome they deserve.